The Westminster Council is calling for new powers to curb the use of Airbnb-style rental properties and to curb rogue landlords who “make life hell for many of our residents”.
The London Council is appealing to the UK Government to introduce regulations that will allow it and other local authorities to refuse permission to homeowners who want to rent out their properties for days or weeks at a time.
Westminster also wants people who rent properties to be registered through booking platforms such as Booking.com and Airbnb, making it easier for the council to track down and fine any landlords who violate short-term rental rules.
As pandemic restrictions eased across the country and visitors returned to the capital, there has been an increase in complaints about late-night parties, overcrowding and even sex work taking place in rental apartments, the council said.
“Many short-term rental properties are putting pressure on the council’s resources and making life hell for many of our residents who are constantly complaining to us about the detrimental effects they have,” said Rachael Robathan, leader of Westminster City Council. . the government supports responsible use of short-term rentals.
Short-term rentals have popped up in London and other popular tourist destinations since the launch of services like Airbnb, which was set up in 2008, allowing homeowners to list their properties for a period of days or weeks.
Those services were welcomed by travelers and provided a windfall for hosts, but the proliferation of short-term rentals was also blamed for an increase in antisocial behavior and the erosion of city centers. Other cities, including Paris and Amsterdam, have already introduced registration schemes that usually require hosts to register with the council as to who stays in their home and for how long.
Westminster claimed there were 13,000 homes in London available for short-term rentals, many of them in the city center. The “industrial scale” of leasing has drawn complaints from residents.
One resident of William Mews, near Hyde Park, complained after a recent party at a neighboring rental property. “There is nothing desirable about having a commercial business doing business in a quiet residential street that is now at my front door.”
They said they were afraid “to answer their own door” with the “narrow street clogged by extra vehicles”.
According to Westminster, there were more than 100 apartments on short-term rental plots in a single block of flats near Edgware Road – and it recently advertised more rooms than there were in the entire Ritz hotel.
“Our city inspectors are working closely with the police to close unauthorized events held at short-term rentals as quickly and safely as possible,” said Robathan.
“But ultimately we need more restrictions and powers given to us as a local authority to tackle short-term anti-social rental behavior.”
The government is expected to announce a call for evidence in tourist accommodation in the coming weeks, and Westminster will then formally submit its proposals.
Airbnb said it was already suppressing antisocial behavior by users of its platform.
“Airbnb welcomes regulation: last year we submitted proposals for a host registration system, and we are delighted that the government will consult on a similar approach this year,” the company said.